In* order to develop a talent, it has to be exercised. It has to be used on a frequent and consistent basis. Doing so can be hard at times, which is why I believe wholeheartedly in setting up exercises and completing them.
Today’s writing exercise involves polar bears. Why polar bears? The main reason is that the topic was suggested to me. I’m sure the suggestion wasn’t made with a serious intent, but any writing suggestion has the power to take root in my mind. I went to sleep accompanied by thoughts of polar bears. Polar bears haunted my bike ride this morning. The topic also posed a writing challenge. How could I say “no” to that?
My thoughts of polar bears last night and this morning haven’t resulted in a clear sense of direction. I’m still studying the various angles. One option is to write about environmental concerns. That’s a laudable topic, but it isn’t one for which I feel a strong affinity at the moment. I could write about the abuse of polar bears in advertising. I would be able to write plenty about that subject, beginning with Coca-Cola’s polar bears. I could write about how amazing polar bears are, from the papillae on the pads of their paws to their keen sense of smell. I could discuss the polar bear’s hunting tactics. Those intrigued me until I reached the following sentence, “The polar bear kills the seal by biting its head to crush its skull.”
My self-inflicted writing exercise has produced many possibilities, which is what a writing exercise is supposed to do. Exercises aren’t meant to be limiting. They’re supposed to be fun. They’re to be tested. They’re to be poked, prodded, and studied until I arrive at a unique, creative solution. When I find that solution, I discover that my writing abilities have grown in some way, and I have become a better writer.
*This post originally was published on March 3, 2011.